Bee researchers have strongly urged the government to immediately implement proposals put forward to solve the bee-human conflict in plantations and Sigiriya which involved the establishment of a conservation area in Sigiriya and the creation of a barrier, composed of vines between the footpaths used by humans and the bees’ colony.

Addressing the issue of the conflict between the bees and humans and wasp attacks, Chairman of the Pollinator Conservation Committee of the Pollinator Conservation Unit of the Bio-Diversity Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment, Dr. R.W.K. Punchihewa highlighted that bees were the major pollinators in the environment and therefore of utmost importance and essential for the survival of the nation.

Former Head of the Department of Agricultural Biology of the University of Ruhuna, Senior Lecturer Dr. Punchihewa added that the reasons for the said conflict involved the nature of the bees and their flight patterns, and their nutritional needs (in the same way a swarm of yellow butterflies obtain salts by sitting on patches of sand and absorbing salt from and through the urine of elephants which had previously been there).

Over the years, there have been several instances where locals and foreigners have been stung by bees at various locations in Sri Lanka, including Sigiriya.

He observed that resorting to black magic, including thovils practiced by exorcists to solve the problem was ‘utter nonsense’.

“The argument that the wind pattern plays a role in such attacks taking place holds no water as the bees build their nests in a wind-resistant manner, the nests being curved in the same manner as the Victoria Dam meant to reserve water,” he remarked.

“We cannot live without these warrior bees. The said conflict is not as simple as humans merely keeping away from the bees. Bees fly and when they do they choose the shortest distance to get to a destination. At certain points in their flight path, they encounter humans. They take a straight path. They fly over the rock and not around it,” he said.
He explained that the mass attacks occur frequently on the stepladder and at the top. Accordingly, when a bee during its flight crashes into a human being midflight, the impact of the hit causes it to be crushed. Through the chemical signals emitted in the process, the other bees come to learn of what has transpired and they get excited.

“They have a lot of honey to defend. This results therefore in a mass attack,” he added.
He pointed out that when they do not have honey, they seldom attack. According to him, the colony of bees in Sigiriya is found at the level of the steps to the left of the sinhapaada. Bees too need water and salts. There is a patch of land to the left of the sinhapaada where humans urinate.

“This should not be allowed. This and the lower area where the Garden is should be declared a conservation zone for the conservation of pollinators. There must be a paradigm shift in our approach. Bees have eternally been living with the wind,” he said.
“The other remedy is to train vines including creepers (fast growing vines and creepers such as kala wel {derris canarensis, derris scandens and derris trifoliata – family name is fabaceae}, gokala wel, rasakinda {tinospora cordifolia} wel, winasa wel and Mexican coral vine {antigonon leptopus}) on steel wire ropes. The places for this have been marked in the specific proposal’s drawings and report for the conflict resolution. At the top there are trees. We can use plants to deflect the bees flight path. Is the government at a time when President Maithripala Sirisena himself has made mention of this matter when speaking on the World Environment Day, doing anything about this?,” Dr. Punchihewa emphasized.